Illinois Passes Strongest Fracking Bill in Country

by Sofia Plagakis, 6/19/2013

Today, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act (SB 1715), which would give the state the strongest oversight rules on fracking in the country. Though by no means perfect, the Illinois legislation is a step in the right direction and could influence debates and strengthen rules about oil and gas drilling and extraction in other states.

Among the disclosure provisions in the legislation are requirements that drillers publicly report all chemicals they plan to use in fracking and to gather baseline water quality data, as part of the permit application process and prior to drilling. The legislation also requires the state to maintain a centralized online repository of all information related to fracking operations in the state. Unlike most previous state oversight rules on chemical disclosure, the Illinois bill provides more stringent limits on the use of trade secrets exemptions, though it still allows companies to withhold chemical information under the loophole. See our previous analysis for a more detailed discussion on these provisions.

Many environmental groups, such Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), came out in support of the bill, though they continue to demand a state moratorium on fracking until its public health risks can be fully evaluated and addressed. State and local environmental groups have also called on Illinois to study the impact of fracking and evaluate best practices prior to allowing drilling. Members from Illinois People’s Action and Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment had staged an ongoing sit-in outside Governor Quinn’s office last month.

These oversight requirements are past due in Illinois. State records (obtained recently by NRDC) indicate that high-volume oil drilling has already begun, without any oversight rules in place to protect public health and safety.

Thus far, only about 13 out of 30 states with active gas reserves have passed oversight laws or established rules that require even basic public disclosure about the chemicals used in fracking. In order to get other states to follow Illinois’s lead and establish strong oversight policies as the norm, continued public pressure is needed.

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